The government needs officials with experience in Southeast Asia to be successful in developing economic ties and gaining the confidence of local industries in the region, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said.
Speaking about the government’s “new southbound policy,” which aims to boost ties with Southeast Asian nations and India, Lo said that high-level Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials remain US-centric in their outlook.
One of the ministry’s top positions has to be filled by someone with experience in South or Southeast Asia to lend persuasiveness to the promotion of the policy, Lo said, adding that doing so would demonstrate the nation’s sincerity.
Aside from having a strategic plan to engage the region economically, government agencies in charge of the policy should take the lead in executing it, Lo said, adding that doing so would legitimize the government’s pledge to improve ties.
The ministry’s work involves recognizing the inherent differences and unique conditions of regions, as well as adapting approaches to meet those differences, he said, adding that the ministry should be composed of a balance of people who have experience in the regions.
However, the minister, deputy minister, secretary-general and other top officials at the ministry favor improved ties with the US over those with Southeast and South Asian nations, Lo said, adding that the situation has caused a lack of persuasiveness in promoting the policy.
The backgrounds of Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維), Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Leo Lee (李澄然) and ministry Secretary-General Paul Chang (章文樑) are in the US-centric system, while Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou (侯清山) has a Latin American policy background and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Chih-chung (吳志中) has a background in EU policy research, Lo said.
Asia, specifically Southeast Asia, is the only region for which Taiwan lacks a high-level official with experience, Lo said.
Lo said that the ministry should look at the makeup of its high-level ranks and add someone with experience in Southeast Asia to promote the policy.
“This would empower the nation’s diplomats in Southeast Asia to implement foreign policy and pursue their goals,” Lo said.
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